The end of Maker Faire?
In the early hours of this morning, as an active Maker Faire producer and former crew member, I got an email from Maker Media Dale Dougherty, about another restructuring at Make: however this restructuring, the last of a long line of them over the last 18 months, included the letting go of all the remaining staff at Maker Media and the resignation of the board of directors. The current status of Maker Media and its assets (Maker Faire, Make Magazine and so on) is complicated. They’re not bankrupt as such, but a negotiation needs to take place between Maker Media’s creditors and Dale, who is hoping to rescue some of the assets (again with his own money) to bring some of them into a new not-for-profit organisation. These will likely include the Maker Faire’s which are run under licence by other organisation, that’s basically ALL the Maker Faires that aren’t Bay Area. Meaning that if you have a local Faire, they’ll likely be able to continue as they are. The servers that hold the websites for them continue to be accessible and its likely though not certain that Dale will be able to maintain the brand and the licences and not loose them to some creditor, though not entirely guaranteed.
I’m unsure of the fate of World Maker Faire in New York, World Maker Faire in New York is run half by Make: and half by the NYSci the New York Hall of Science, which is the venue where the NY faire is held. It isn’t a big profit maker, but is a popular event and I don’t see why NYSci would pull the plug on it though todays news might have an impact on both exhibitors, sponsors and attendee attitudes.
For many Maker Media confidants and insiders, todays new is not a big surprise. For me Alasdair Allen wrote the best post about what might be the end of the Maker Media era that I’ve read so far:
The idea of a makers businesses as a Faustian bargain rings true for me. My work around the edges of Maker Media, as crew at Maker Faire and as a producer, as well as the time I’ve spent with Nottingham Hackspace and the Hackspace Foundation and EMF camp as well as with my companies Smoke & Mirrors and Just Add Sharks has been the endless conflict between the need to make money and profit and the notion that the world of making must not be corporate in any way. I’ve seen a few individuals do well out of the movement in terms of satisfaction and lifestyle but very few people have been getting really rich from it. I suspect that the maker movement isn’t a money maker and never will be. Once a maker or product crosses that chasm it’s sort of NOT in the maker movement anymore. It’s in the big world of corporate battles, competition and the main stream market. Dale said:
“Why is this happening? To be honest, I have struggled with the business for years on end. When we went on our own, we took a modest amount of VC funding but it was soon obvious that we weren't a great VC-backed business. Somehow, we made it work for this long. But we've had increasing cash flow problems over the last 18 months and I've tried to patch things with my own money but it's just not enough anymore.”
I think this honest appraisal of the financial position of the maker movement is telling. I have many opinions on Maker Faire and similar events, I even have some ideas for how this could look in the future, but it’s not time to share those ideas.
I want though to reach out to the hundreds of people I’ve met through my time with Maker Faire. Without it I would never have met people like Martin Raynsford, Jake & Hannah Howe, James Carrigan & Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh of Sugru, Jason Bedard, Liz, Cheryl & Dave from Calgary, Monica, Maker-Chad and many many other Faire producers and Sabrina and Dale himself. I likely might never have travelled to the USA so often and met people like Adam Savage, Laura Kampf, EsteffanieGG, William Osman and well, just so many others. It’s been about the most important thing in my life over the last 5 years. So goodbye Maker Media, we’re all looking forward to what comes next and the space it makes for the movement to get down to the real business of going forward now that the hype and high fashion period of making is over.